THE PASSIVE SENTENCE


Before discussing the ways in which passive sentences are formed, it is expedient to explain the meaning of voice because passive is one of the voices of verbs. Voice refers to the verb form which shows whether a transitive verb acts or is acted upon. These situations give rise to two voices -Active and Passive.
The active voice, which is more common, shows when the subject does the action of the verb. For example:
            - Jude collected the money.
Here, Jude performs the action. It is placed in the subjective position. The passive voice shows a situation where the subject is acted upon. It suffers the action indicated by the verb. Example:
            - The money was collected by Ali.  
English sentences can begin with the subject or object. This is determined by the voice a sentence takes. Voice is the form a verb takes to indicate whether a person or thing does something or something has been done to a person or a thing. A voice describes the relationship between the action (or state) that the verb expresses and the participants identified by its arguments (subject, object etc). For easy understanding of this explanation given above, we illustrate it in the following sentences:
Ude killed the goat
The goat was killed by Ude.
In grammar, we do not consider the true test of the statement. The cases of grammar are being judged by considering the position in which they appear. Considering the first sentence illustrated above, Ude, having taking the rightful subjective position (as a doer and as agent), is considered as the grammatical subject. As the doer of the action, Ude occupies this position as a rightful or the logical subject. Semantically and logically, Ude occupies its rightful position as the performer of the action. However, in the second sentence, the position of the logical subject (doer) shifts to that of the target or undergoer of the action, the goat. As a result, the goat in this sentence is the grammatical subject (the undergoer) of the action performed by Ude, the logical subject.
            English has two forms of voice. They are:
Active voice
Passive voice

The Active Voice
             A voice is said to be active when the subject is the agent or doer of the action. In the active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action or causes the happening denoted by the verb. Active voice is used in a clause whose subject expresses agent of the main verb. That is, the subject does the action assigned by the verb. So in active voice, the agent is marked grammatical subject. Consider the following sentences:
                        Ojo killed a lion.
                        We saw the train.
                        They cut the tree.

The Passive Voice
            A verb is said to be passive when something has been done to the subject. That is, the grammatical subject, the person or thing that is affected by the action of the verb, takes up the subject position. The passive voice is employed in a clause whose subject expresses the theme or patient of the verb. That is, it undergoes an action or has its state changed. In the passive voice, the grammatical subject of the verb is the recipient (not the doer) of the action indicated by the verb. The following sentences illustrate the passive voice:
                        A lion was killed by Ojo.
                        The train was seen by us.
                        The tree was cut by them.
The following sentences below justify the logic in active and passive transformations:
Active
passive
Ayo cuts a tree.
A tree is cut by Ayo.
Ayo is cutting a tree.
A tree is being cut by Ayo.
Ayo has cut a tree.
A tree has been cut by Ayo.
Ayo cut a tree.
A tree was cut by Ayo.
Ayo has been cutting a tree.
A tree has been being cut by Ayo.
Ayo had cut a tree.
A tree had been cut by Ayo.
Ayo had been cutting a tree.
A tree had been being cut by Ayo.
Ayo was cutting a tree.
A tree was being cut by Ayo.
Ayo will cut a tree.
A tree will be cut by Ayo.
 Ayo will be cutting a tree.
A tree will be being cut by Ayo.

Basic Rules For Changing Active Into Passive
In changing the active voice into the passive, the following rules are followed:
The object of the verb in the active voice becomes the subject of the verb in the passive slot.
Ojo killed a lion. (active).
A lion was killed by Ojo. (passive)
The subject of the verb in the active voice becomes the object in the passive voice, obligatorily preceded by the preposition by. Consider the example shown above.
The main verb is changed into past participle form and it is preceded by the right form of the verb be in the passive voice. Examples are seen in:
Amadi wrote a letter. (active)
A letter was written by Amadi. (passive)
The verbs that have double objects always go with either of the objects (preferably the personal objects). The preferable object occupies the subject position and the other object is retained as an object. As Das (2010) puts it, this is called Retained Object. Examples of such sentences are seen below:
Our teacher gave us textbooks. (passive)
                                                           (I.O) (D.O)                                                                                                                              
            We were given textbooks (by our teacher) (passive I)
            Textbooks were given to us. (Passive II
The preposition by is always placed to govern the recipient of the action in the passive slot.


Verb Patterns of Passive Voice
The verb Patterns in Passive voice are expressed in the table below:
Tense
Verb ‘be’
Past participle of the main verb
Simple present and past
am
saw
are
seen
is
gave
was
beaten
were
killed
Continuous
am
seen
are

          Being
 
seen
Is
given
was
beaten
were
killed
Perfect
has
caged

     Been
 
have
caught
had
judged
Future

             
      Be

 
shall
constructed
Will
Washed

Pronoun Change in Passive Voice
            In the passive voice, there are changes in pronouns. study this table.
Subjective form
Objective form
I
Me
We
Us
You
You
He
Him
She
Her
They
Them
                        
Active and passive voice in different sentences
In the imperative sentences, if the verb in the active voice expressed orders, requests, advice etc, the verb ‘let’ usually precede the passive voice and the verb ‘be’ is placed before the past participle of the main verb. On the other hand, if the sentences begin with ‘please’ in active voice, the expression, ‘you requested to’ is used in the passive voice. These are exemplified in the table below:
Active
passive
Do this job.
Let the job be done.
Close the chapter.
Let the chapter be closed.
Ask the tailor to come.
Let the tailor be asked to come.
Keep your promise.
Your promise should be kept.
Cut your hair.
your hair should be cut.
Please keep your items well.
You are requested to keep your items well.
Please see him.
You are requested to see him.
Please do not take a beer.
You are requested not to take beer.

Go back there.
You are requested to go back there.

Come back again.
You are requested to come back again.

It should be noted well, that let may be used in both active and passive voice. ‘Let’ takes the objective type of pronouns me, us, him, her, them. ‘Let’ may be replaced by ‘may be allowed’ in the passive voice.

Active
Passive
Let him bring the goods.
Let the goods be brought by him.
Let us forget the past.
Let the past be forgotten (by us).
Let them leave.
They may be allowed to leave.

In interrogative sentences, the passive voice keeps its interrogative form as it is in the active voice. If the interrogative sentence begins with the auxiliary verb do, the process of changing is convenient by changing it into assertive first and then into interrogative. But if the interrogative sentence begins with any other auxiliary verb or a Wh-word, it can be directly changed into passive. Consider the following interrogative sentences:
Yes-no questions (by placing the helping verb first)
Active: Do you see the doctor?
Passive: Is the doctor seen by you?
Active: Did you see the car?
Passive: Was the car seen by you?
Active: Has she cooked it?
Passive: Has it been cooked by him?
Active: Have you studied the theory?
Passive: Has the theory been studied by you?
Wh-questions (by placing the Wh-word first)
Active: Who told you?
Passive: by whom were you told that?
Active: Whom did you call?
Passive: Who was called by you?
Active: What do you need?
Passive: What is needed by you?
Active: Why did the mother shout at you?
Passive: Why were you shouted at by the mother?
Active: Which bag do you want?
Passive: Which bag is wanted by you?
Active: How did you see it?
Passive: How was it seen by you?
Negative sentences (placing not before the past participle of the verb)
Active: We do not eat snail.
Passive: Snail is not eaten by us.
Active: Oke did not tell lies.
Passive: Lies were not told by Oke.
Active: Father has not brought the gift.
Passive: The gift has not been brought by father.
Active: Has he not seen the children?
Passive: Have not the children seen by him.

Verbs That Can Be Passivized In English
            Ideally, it is only the transitive verbs that can undergo passivization in English. The reason is because they are the only verbs which transfer their actions to the noun or the pronoun. Such nouns in the objective case are those that will be reversed to form the passive subjects. Intransitive, therefore, cannot be passivized since they do not have the grammatical feature of transferring their actions to the object, but, rather have their actions remaining in them.
            However, there are some intransitive verbs that can undergo passivization in some cases. When an intransitive can be converted transitively, having a cognate object, it can be converted into the passive voice. Consider the following examples:
Active
Passive
Nduka slept a sleep.
A sleep was slept by Nduka.
The children played a rough play.
A rough play was played by the children.
The soldier fought a good fight.
A good fight was fought by the soldier.
Edo ran a race.
A race was run by Edo.
The old man dreamt a horrible dream.
A horrible dream was dreamt by the old man.

            An intransitive verb can also be used passively when used causatively. Examples are shown below:
                        Active: The hockey walked the horse after the race.
                        Passive: The horse was walked by the hockey after the race.
                        Active: The boys have stood the board against the wall.
                        Passive: The board has been stood against the wall.

The Passive Voice With Double Objects
            Some sentences can yield two passive forms especially such sentences with two complements and indirect object (I.O) and a direct object (D.O). In such a construction, either the direct or indirect object can become the subject of the passive sentence. As explained earlier, the indirect object or the personal object is preferred for the subject. Another object in the sentence is retained. Hence, it is called Retained Object. Examples are shown below:
                        Active: The manager granted us the permission.
                        Passive: The permission was granted us by the manager.
                                       We were granted permission by the manager.
                        Active: The company issued him a participatory certificate.
                        Passive: A participatory certificate was issued to him by the company.
                                       He was issued a participatory certificate by the company.
                        Active: The teacher gave me a pencil.
                        Passive: A pencil was given to me by the teacher.
                                       I was given a pencil by the teacher.
                        Active: Kunle bought me a good dictionary.
                        Passive: A good dictionary was bought by Kunle.
                                       I was bought a good dictionary by Kunle.
                        Active: They offered him a nice opportunity.
                        Passive: A nice opportunity was offered to him.
                                       He was offered a nice opportunity by them.
                        Active: Mr. Ojo teaches us English.
                        Passive: We were taught English by Mr. Ojo
                                       English is taught (to) us by Mr. Ojo
                        Active: Agnes sent him a message.
                        Passive: He was sent a message by Agnes
                                       A message was sent (to) him by Agnes.
                        Active: They handed him a flower.
                        Passive: He was handed a flower by them
                                       A flower was handed (to) him by them.
                        Active: The receptionist offered me a sear.
                        Passive: I was offered a seat by the receptionist.
                                       A seat was offered (to) me by the receptionist.
                        Active: The landlord gave us a quit notice.
                        Passive: We were given a quit notice by the landlord.
                                       A quit notice was given to us by the landlord.

Passives with Reflexive Objects
            Reflexive objects are formed with ‘self’. They cannot be changed into subject. Examples are:
                        Active: She saw herself.
                        Passive: She was seen by herself.
            Note that we cannot say: Herself was seen by her. As Das (2010) pointed out, this passive with reflexive object is not good English. The active form should be preferred. In affirmation to this, Fowler stated that it is a familiar process. But it sometimes leads to bad grammar, false idiom or clumsiness.

Forming passives with infinitives (to + verb)
            In forming passives with infinitives changes occur as illustrated in the following sentences:
                        Active: There are lots of things to say.
                        Passive: There are lots of things to be said.
                        Active: There is no time to waste.
                        Passive: There is no time to be wasted.
                        Active: We have to admit that.
                        Passive: That as to be admitted by us.
                        Active: We are to make necessary changes
                        Passive: Necessary changes have to be made by us.
            Verbs followed by objects + bare infinitives as follow:
                        Active: We saw her go to the library. (to before go is omitted)
                        Passive: She was seen to go to the library. ( to is used).
                        Active: Amobi made us cry. (‘to’ is omitted)
                        Passive: We were made to cry by Amobi. (‘To’ is added)

Forming passives with the stative verbs (doing/seeing) etc
                        Active: I don’t like people informing me of what I know.
                        Passive: I don’t like being informed of what I know.
                        Active: Women do not like people searching their bags.
                        Passive: Women do not like their bags being searched by people.
                        Active: Managers hate people keeping them waiting.
                        Passive: Managers hate being kept waiting.

Note here that the subjects remain unchanged in this kind of constructions. Also, when the action is important, not the doer, or the doer is unknown, the object or the doer with ‘by’ is understood. So in this case, the preposition by may be omitted. Examples are:

Active
Passive
He has lost his money.
His money has been lost.
They’ve stolen his car.
His car has been stolen.
Someone praised him then.
He was praised then.
The engineers are constructing the bridges.
The bridges are being constructed.

Passive Voice with ‘that Clause’
            Passive voice is something used to introduce a ‘that clause’. Consider the following examples:
                        Active: We said that he is a lawyer.
                        Passive: It is said that he is a lawyer.
                        Active: They believed that he told the truth.
                        Passive: It is believed that he told the truth.
                        Active: The lecturers may point out that he copied from John.
                        Passive: It may be pointed out that he copied from John.
                        Active: He admits that he has deceived the boy.
                        Passive: It is admitted that he has deceived the boy.
                        Active: it proved that he had apologised to the teacher.
                        Passive: it was proved that he had apologised to the teacher.
            It should be noted here, that the subject of the passive voice in ‘that clause’ are mainly the non-personal pronoun ‘it’.


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